Dreamer’s Pool (Blackthorn & Grim #1) by Juliet Marillier
Published: 4.11.2014 by Roc
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love.
I’m going to start by saying that I removed half of the synopsis given on Goodreads. My only “issue” with this book was that I knew too much going in. I read the entire Goodreads synopsis, and I feel like it was just too telling! I was waiting for 70% of the book on what I already knew would happen… So to ensure that you don’t have the same problem, I’ve redacted the summary. Anyway, let’s get into the review.
A first aspect I loved. During this book, the main characters travel from their prison through different countries into Dalriada. They travel for days/weeks. During that time, you get to experience and discover the world as well. I really enjoyed Juliet Marillier’s descriptions, and the world she created. Every time I read one of her books, everything just seems magical. The idyllic woods, small cabins and cottages, the great castles. Sigh. It all just sounds absolutely wonderful.
Like most fantasy novels, this sounds like a medieval setting. Horses, castles, swords, and (herb) healers. Blackthorn is a healer, or as some would say, a wise woman. I really enjoyed learning about the place they live, their little cabin in the woods. I loved to get to know the townspeople, their jobs and way of living. And of course, you get to know the way everything works inside the castle too. Prince Oran’s castle in Dalriada is not the “main seat” for the royal family, it’s his personal house. So the King & Queen are actually not that present in this book, aside from mentions.
Like I said, this world seems so magical and full of possibilities. Yet tough times and hard work are required to survive too.
I don’t really want to talk about the plot. Like I mentioned, I feel like you should know as little as possible before starting this book. Even though I felt a bit spoiled on it all, I loved the whole story. It was a delight to go along with Oran, Blackthorn and Grim and discover what was happening in their world.
This story is told through 3 POVs: Blackthorn’s, Grim’s and Prince Oran’s.
Blackthorn is a healer. Or she was once, at least. As part of her deal to get out of prison, she can’t refuse to help anyone. Now, Blackthorn has been through many tough times, which is part of the reason she ended up in prison. It has made her extremely vengeful, and the last thing she wants to do is help people. Yet she has to. She’s a complicated character, to me. As she is somewhat “older” (maybe in her late 20s or early 30s, I can’t quite remember – by older I just mean she’s not a teenager) when the story starts, she’s already had quite the life before.
At the start of the story, you don’t know anything about her life prior though. You only know that she wants vengeance against a powerful man. She’s an angry woman. And she’s determined. So sometimes, that leads to her having blinders on. You get to know this prickly woman who wants nothing to do with other humans slowly. But it’s so worth it. She’s also a woman who stands up for women’s rights -which I think is incredible. I really enjoyed reading from her perspective.
Grim is another very interesting character! I feel like I want to read the next book immediately, just to figure out more about him. Even after finishing this book, I have so many questions surrounding him. Here’s what comes to mind now, when I think of him. He’s a giant guy, which is why people are apprehensive when he approaches. But he’s such a kind person. I felt for him, truly. And he’s always taking care of Blackthorn, and trying to make her life a bit easier -even though she insists she doesn’t need him. His POV was my absolute favorite, and I’m sad he didn’t have more pages.
The last main character is Prince Oran. If I’m completely honest, his POV was my least favorite. Anyway, this story revolves around him -and his wedding- as well. His parents have been urging Oran to marry for years now, as he’s more than a suitable age. Especially for a prince. Oran is a person who prefers poetry, reading, writing and walks over hunting and fighting. He’s described as ‘soft’. I thought it was really interesting that a prince in such a medieval setting-fantasy novel has this kind of personality! It’s refreshing. But he’s refused to marry until he finds a woman he actually loves. Which is were Flidais comes in. They’ve been corresponding for a while, and she’s coming to his castle to get married.
When I read about him, I feel like he would make a great king. He walks between his people, listening to their problems, trying to solve them and understand their way of living. He’s honest and fair, but most of all, smart. All good qualities! Yet sometimes I felt a tad bored when I read from his perspective?
This is an incredible fantasy novel, and a great start to a series. I’ve been a fan of Juliet Marillier for years, and I’m glad to say I enjoyed this newer series too. I definitely want to pick up the next book, as I’m very invested in Blackthorn and Grim’s characters. I want to see what they’ll end up doing next! As I said, I’d highly recommend this novel -and I stick to my advice of not reading the entire synopsis the book gives.